The transition from summer to fall is an ideal time to get your home organized. As you put away all of that summer gear and prepare for cooler weather, why not also commit to clearing out some of the things you no longer need or use? Here are five quick ways to clean out items right now and donate them to an organization that will actually use them.
Each person in your family needs one or two suitcases. If you have more than that, it’s time to purge. People seem to accumulate a luggage collection that far exceeds their needs, mostly because they don’t know what to do with the suitcases they no longer use and they feel uncomfortable throwing away something that is still useful.
However, there’s no point in storing bulky suitcases that you’re not using, especially when there are organizations that will gladly accept them for kids and families in need. There are organizations in each state that collect donated suitcases for foster children, who often don’t have suitcases to pack their things in when they transition between homes. To find a place to donate luggage near you, visit donateluggage.com. The website makes it easy to locate an organization in your state. In the District, the website will direct you to the National Foster Care Coalition. Also in the District, the Child and Family Services Agency accepts donated suitcases through its Partners for Kids in Care program. Further information can be found at cfsa.dc.gov .
We all have a drawer or bin full of hotel shampoos, conditioners, soaps and lotions. We bring them home thinking we’ll definitely use them in our guest room or on a future trip, but somehow never remember to do so. If you’re not using them — and, let’s face it, you’re probably not going to — why not donate them to a local homeless or women’s shelter? You can find a shelter in your area by visiting homelessshelterdirectory.org or womenshelters.org. New and unopened bottles can also be sent to troops stationed abroad through an organization called Operation: Care and Comfort.
Reusable tote bags are such a good idea — until you’ve accumulated so many that you can’t actually use, or store, them all. As it turns out, reusable bags aren’t as environmentally friendly as many of us think, particularly because we don’t use them enough to make their production worth it. In fact, they’ve become so popular and so mass-produced that a recent article in the Atlantic pointed out, “Their abundance encourages consumers to see them as disposable, defeating their very purpose.” But instead of throwing away those totes you’re no longer using, donate them to local food pantries, farmers markets and homeless shelters, where they will be used and reused. Or, if you’re donating clothes or toys to a local organization, put your items in reusable bags so that they can be repurposed. Bread for the City in the District lists reusable bags on its wish list of items for donation.
We all seem to be framing fewer pictures, and yet picture frames seem to magically multiply. Sometimes they’re given to us as gifts, and other times we buy them because we intend to use them but then somehow never get around to it. Instead of keeping a collection of empty frames in a box in the basement, donate them to an organization that will give them to people who will use and enjoy them. Organizations that help people transition into homes, in particular, make good recipients of picture frames that are in like-new condition. Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores and Goodwill, which both have locations in the area, will accept donations of picture frames, as will A Wider Circle, whose headquarters is in Silver Spring.
I’ve noticed in my recent organizing jobs that many people own hundreds of glasses. Really. Tall water glasses, short water glasses, juice glasses, champagne flutes, red wine glasses, white wine glasses, bar glasses, martini glasses, margarita glasses. I could go on, but you get the idea. Most of us use the same six to eight glasses every day. Sure, you need to have enough for entertaining, but is it necessary to take up valuable kitchen cabinet storage with glassware you seldom use? Spend 30 minutes taking an honest accounting of all that glassware and see if you have at least a dozen items you could donate. I bet you do, and I bet you won’t miss them when they’re gone. There are many organizations in our area that will take glassware, including Interfaith Works, the National Center for Children and Families and Neighbors’ Consejo.
Although it’s totally legitimate to try to expand the storage options in your home, sometimes a better option is to just reduce the amount of stuff you need to store. And repurposing items to help someone else makes it even more worthwhile. For a full list of where to donate almost anything in the Washington area, go to charitychoices.com.